Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Thailand Visas’

14th February 2021

Since the last posting on this blog there have been a number of developments and discussions with respect to both Thai and American immigration issues. One development which has received substantial media coverage has been the Executive Orders signed by President Biden with regard to Immigration policy. Of particular note to the administration of this web log was the order titled: Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans. The content of this Executive Order seems designed to impose a new policy paradigm upon the Immigration bureaucracy (or perhaps reimpose of a previously existing paradigm). This effort to change the prevailing paradigm is evidenced in the opening lines of the order itself:

Consistent with our character as a Nation of opportunity and of welcome, it is essential to ensure that our laws and policies encourage full participation by immigrants, including refugees, in our civic life; that immigration processes and other benefits are delivered effectively and efficiently; and that the Federal Government eliminates sources of fear and other barriers that prevent immigrants from accessing government services available to them…The Federal Government should develop welcoming strategies that promote integration, inclusion, and citizenship, and it should embrace the full participation of the newest Americans in our democracy.

Clearly, the administration seeks to re-establish a sense of decorum and compassion tot eh immigration system. The order goes on the delineate as to more concrete steps toward those ends:

Sec. 3.  Restoring Trust in our Legal Immigration System.  The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall review existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions) that may be inconsistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(a)  In conducting this review, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall:

(i)   identify barriers that impede access to immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications of these benefits and make recommendations on how to remove these barriers, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law; and

(ii)  identify any agency actions that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system — such as the final rule entitled, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements,” 85 Fed. Reg. 46788 (Aug. 3, 2020), in light of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act (title I of division D of Public Law 116-159) — and recommend steps, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to revise or rescind those agency actions.

(b)  Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall each submit a plan to the President describing the steps their respective agencies will take to advance the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(c)  Within 180 days of submitting the plan described in subsection (b) of this section, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall each submit a report to the President describing the progress of their respective agencies towards implementing the plan developed pursuant to subsection (b) of this section and recognizing any areas of concern or barriers to implementing the plan.

It remains to be seen precisely how this will impact the American immigration system, and it should be noted that the apparatus is unlikely to fundamentally change over night. That stated, there is good reason to hope there may be “light at the end of the tunnel” after months of seemingly unnecessary delay and obfuscation in the visa process. There does appear to one area of particular interest to the current administration with respect to US immigration. Namely, there have been a number of issues associated with the “Public Charge rule” and prior to the issue of COVID-19 coming to the forefront of immigration analysis, public charge was shaping up to be a significant obstacle for a number of family based immigration cases (including, but not limited to: the K-1 visa, the K-3 visa, the CR-1 visa, and the IR-1 visa categories). The recently promulgated order seems to take this issue seriously:

The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of other relevant agencies, as appropriate, shall review all agency actions related to implementation of the public charge ground of inadmissibility in section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), and the related ground of deportability in section 237(a)(5) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(5).  They shall, in considering the effects and implications of public charge policies, consult with the heads of relevant agencies, including the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

(a)  This review should:

(i)    consider and evaluate the current effects of these agency actions and the implications of their continued implementation in light of the policy set forth in section 1 of this order;

(ii)   identify appropriate agency actions, if any, to address concerns about the current public charge policies’ effect on the integrity of the Nation’s immigration system and public health; and

(iii)  recommend steps that relevant agencies should take to clearly communicate current public charge policies and proposed changes, if any, to reduce fear and confusion among impacted communities.

(b)  Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall each submit a report to the President describing any agency actions identified pursuant to subsection (a)(ii) of this section and any steps their agencies intend to take or have taken, consistent with subsection (a)(iii) of this section.

It seems the administration is particularly keen to address the difficulties imposed by rules changes pertaining to public charge and hopefully some revision of the rules may be forthcoming sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, although there has not been a great deal of substantive change to current immigration policy in Thailand, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding possible policy changes to in an effort to revitalize the Thai tourism sector which, depending upon the source, seems to have seen between 1-3 million layoffs since the response to the pandemic began. Once solution discussed has been the notion of a “vaccine passport” or “immunity passport“. Essentially, this notion centers upon the idea that those who can prove they have been inoculated against COVID-19, via one of the many vaccinations currently on the market, will be allowed to travel to Thailand without the need to quarantine in one of the alternative state quarantine (ASQ) facilities. Notwithstanding the fact that there has ben a great deal of discussion on this matter, it currently appears, as with the so-called “travel bubble” scheme, that this program will not be implemented any time soon. As the tourism sector in Thailand languishes, long stay tourists may avail themselves to special tourist visas or standard TR visas to stay in Thailand. Furthermore, the Thai retirement visa remains a viable option for those wishing to travel to Thailand for retirement purposes.

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5th January 2021

As 2021 dawned the situation in Thailand, specifically the response to COVID-19, deteriorated. Presently, in place of full lockdowns, much of Thailand is operating under a system of provincial imposition of “highly controlled area” status which is restricting many operations many people once took for granted. How has this impacted the immigration system? Initially, it seemed this turn of events would not impact prospects for gaining admission to Thailand. Then, it appeared that those from the UK might be restricted from arriving in Thailand. To quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

The Ministry of Public Health will ask the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to defer the entry of British visitors to the country after the fast-spreading B117 strain of Covid-19 was found in four British nationals entering Thailand on Dec 21.

This caused a great deal of consternation especially among those seeking Thai visas from the Embassy in the UK. However, further deliberation seems to have resulted in the decision that arrivals from the United Kingdom will not be impeded. Quoting directly from The Nation:

Thailand’s measures to control the spread of Covid-19 are strong enough to not warrant special measures against travellers from the United Kingdom, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Thanee Saengrat said.

Based upon the above information, it seems logical to presume that the overall situation regarding foreign nationals arriving in Thailand remains much as it did prior to the new year. Meanwhile, a number of travelers are finding that trying to process their Thai visa application on their own from abroad is a cumbersome endeavor. The overall process of gaining lawful admission to Thailand is greatly changed compared to times past. One major sticking point for many is the addition of the certificate of entry to the process. This document is required in addition to a Thai visa. Concurrently, documentation showing a lack of infection for COVID-19 in addition to fit to fly documentation has proven nettlesome for many. Couple this with the fact that those entering Thailand are still required to undergo Alternative State Quarantine for 14 days prior to gaining total access to the Kingdom. There was some discussion regarding the possibility of seeing the quarantine time frame reduced to 10 days or even less. However, under present circumstances this seems highly unlikely. The notion of “travel bubble” arrangements also being brought online seems unlikely at this time as well.  Although many in Thailand are hopeful that the disbursement of a vaccine may result in a return of tourists in 2021. As of the time of this writing, this remains conjecture.

Turning to American immigration, many have found themselves in a kind of processing “limbo” with respect to cases such as the K-1 fiance visa as well as the various marriage visas including the K-3 visa, CR-1 and IR-1 visa categories. Currently, a large number of cases remain at the National Visa Center and seem unlikely to be processed out for interview soon. There appeared to be hope in the last part of the final quarter of 2020 as some cases were being scheduled for interview, but that hope may be dashed as the current situation in Thailand may result in further interview cancellations. This situation is fluid and still evolving.

Many hope that a transition to a new administration will herald an end to certain arbitrary and capricious aspects of the immigration process in its current form, but it should be noted that it takes time for bureaucracies to change and therefore a Biden presidency may not immediately see major changes to visa case processing in 2021.

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5th November 2020

For those unaware, our firm maintains a Youtube channel in order to provide daily updates regarding Thai, American, and international immigration matters as well as information of a general nature regarding Thai legal issues and legal news for expats.

In the aftermath of the 2020 election in the USA, there has been a question posed: how will the outcome impact American Immigration? As noted in a video on our aforementioned YouTube Channel, it appears that the ultimate result of the election is unlikely to have a dramatic impact upon American visa processing, at least in the near term. As noted in prior postings to this blog, the US government’s response to COVID-19 has resulted in a slowing of case processing at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the National Visa Center (NVC), and US Embassies and Consulates abroad (including the American Embassy in Bangkok). It seems unlikely that even if the government’s administration changes due to the election that we will see faster processing times for immigration cases in the near term. That stated, the situation remains fluid and unforeseen developments could see cases such as K-1 visa applications move with more speed compared to the past months.

The Thai Immigration situation remains fluid as well. Recently, the government terminated the Thai visa amnesty. Concurrently, it appears that some tourists are beginning to return to Thailand using the special tourist visa (STV) scheme. However, the tourist numbers are small compared to numbers in the years leading up to 2020. Thai Immigration and officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seem increasingly keen to allow the return of expats from abroad. The O-A retirement visa category has been prioritized for issuance of certificates of entry (COE) for prospective travelers to Thailand. This is happening as foreign nationals traveling to Thailand in business visa status appear to be on the rise. Those who have a Thai spouse or other family in Thailand can also avail themselves of an O visa in order to enter the Kingdom.

There has been some conjecture that the Thai government may promulgate rules allowing property purchasers to travel to Thailand. This proposal seems to be geared toward increasing the demand for Thai condos. However, these proposals have yet to be taken up by relevant authorities and therefore it remains to be seen whether Thai property ownership will be deemed a sufficient reason for sponsoring a visa and/or certificate of entry for the Kingdom of Thailand.

The entire process for traveling to Thailand remains cumbersome compared to routine protocols. As noted above, a certificate of entry, in addition to a Thai visa, is necessary for one to travel to Thailand. Prospective entrants are also required to obtain fit to fly documentation and remain in alternative state quarantine (ASQ) for 14 days (although there is speculation this may be reduced to 10 days) before being permitted unfettered access to the Kingdom.

 

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20th August 2014

The Thailand Easy Access Card

Posted by : admin

In recent postings on this blog, the issue of immigration crackdowns has been discussed. Specifically, it appears that the so-called in/out 30 day visa run is a thing of the past and those overstaying their lawful immigration status could find themselves barred from reentering the country. Meanwhile, it appears that obtaining one year multiple entry Thai visas is becoming more and more difficult although not impossible where the applicant meets the requirements.

This brings this blogger to a related topic, in the past the Thailand Elite Card program allowed for long term stays in Thailand, but the price was usually not cost effective for the average traveler. It should also be noted that the initial Elite Card scheme allowed for a lifetime visa. Eventually the program went somewhat defunct, only to be re-vamped and reintroduced as a 20 year visa scheme. Those seeking an Elite Card must pay 2 million baht up-front with a yearly 20,000 baht administrative fee. Again, even the current Elite Card cost is not affordable for many. This may be why the Elite Card promoters have implemented a less expensive alternative: The Thailand Easy Access Card. This card allows the holder to obtain what is essentially a 5 year visa rather than a 20 year visa, but the cost is only 500,000 baht up-front as opposed to 2 million, there are other curtailed benefits that come with Thailand Easy Access Card obtainment which are more fully described in a pamphlet issued by the facilitators of the Easy Access card:

As a business traveler who frequently travels to Thailand you truly deserve the exclusive benefits the Thailand Easy Access Membership entitles. Your arrivals will be practically effortless with assistance by our professional Elite Personal Assistants who will be waiting for you at the plane’s door. From your first step into the Kingdom until your departure they will escort and guide you through the airport assisting you with all formalities and immigration procedures. In addition to the exclusive privileges within the airport your private limousine is available to drive you to your destination as quickly and as hassle-free as possible.

Those seeking a detailed breakdown of Easy Access Card benefits are encouraged to click HERE.

Clearly, the Easy Access Card provides benefits besides long term visa status, but for those wishing to remain in the Kingdom of Thailand for a period longer than one year this may be an option. It should be noted that those entering the Kingdom on either an Elite Card or an Easy Access card enter in tourist visa status. Those wishing to enter Thailand based upon marriage should do so on a Thai marriage visa. Retirees may obtain a Thai retirement visa, while those seeking an Education in Thailand should think about the Thai ED visa.

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29th July 2013

Thailand Visa Update

Posted by : admin

There have been some recent developments with respect to Thai visas. The following information is for general use only and should not be construed to apply to every unique situation as there are often numerous Thai visa options for those wishing to travel and remain in the Kingdom of Thailand for a prolonged period of time.

Thailand Business Visas

It has recently come to this blogger’s attention that 12 month multiple entry Thai business visas are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain from Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad. For example, the Royal Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur recently announced that it will no longer issue 12 month multiple entry business visas to applicants as applicants are now only able to obtain a 90 day Thai Business Visa (officially referred to as the Non-Immigrant “B” Visa) at that post. Applicants are encouraged to first obtain a 90 day Thai business visa and subsequently apply for a Thai work permit and visa extension in the Kingdom of Thailand. However, it would appear that the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang may issue 12 month multiple entry business visas under limited circumstances. It seems that those who have previously obtained a multiple entry Thai business visa and Thai work permit may be eligible to obtain another one year Thai business visa from the Thai Consulate in Penang. Meanwhile it would seem that the other Thai Embassies and Thai Consulates around the world are becoming increasingly hesitant to issue one year multiple entry Thai business visas and in those situations where such visas are issued they are only granted after significant scrutiny by the Consular officers issuing such travel documents.

Thailand Retirement Visas

In some cases, a foreign national may be eligible to obtain a Thai retirement visa. However, Thai Immigration officials are carefully reviewing applications for Thai retirement visas. In fact, this blogger has  learned that issues surrounding the finances of the applicant for a Thai retirement visa are of increasing concern for Thai Immigration officers. In fact, Thai Immigration officers seem to be seeking larger amounts of evidence concerning a retiree’s financial situation compared to past applications.

Thailand O Visas

The O visa in Thailand is technically classified as a miscellaneous visa category. Generally, this visa category is used by foreign nationals with family in Thailand (this is why this category is sometimes referred to as a Thai marriage visa notwithstanding the fact that  it could be used by any family member of a Thai national). As is the case with the Thai retirement visa, the finances of the foreign national seeking an O visa is of central concern to the Thai Immigration authorities especially when the foreign national is seeking a Thai O visa based upon marriage to a Thai. Therefore, those seeking Thai O visas should be prepared to show substantial evidence of ability to financially support oneself, and one’s spouse, while in Thailand.

Thailand Education Visas

The Thai Education visa (categorized by Thai Immigration as the “ED” visa) is more widely used by foreign nationals in Thailand compared to times past. That stated, Immigration officials examine such applications with a great deal of thoroughness. It should be noted that those staying in the Kingdom on an ED visa based upon attendance at a Thai language school may be tested on their Thai language ability by Immigration officers. Therefore, if one has been present in Thailand on an ED visa for a significant period of time, but cannot show a basic understanding of Thai the ED visa could be revoked.

For related information please see: Thailand work permit

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16th December 2010

Those who read this blog may likely have noticed that the issue of Thai immigration is a frequent topic of discussion. Recently, this author came upon an interesting announcement regarding the issuance of Thai reentry permits at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. The following is quoted directly from the official website of Suvarnabhumi International Airport:

The Re-Entry Application Procedures and Requirements At Suvarnabhumi Airport
Date : 07 – 12 – 10
1. Aliens must submit the applicatoin by themselves.
2. The date of submitting application must be the date of departure.
3. Gather the required documents as below
- Passport or travel document (1 original plus 1 copy)
- One recent photograph (4X6 CM.)
- Fees – Single 1,000 Baht
- Multiple 3,800 Baht
4. Submit the application and required documents at Immigration Departure Division (East Zone), Suvarnabhumi Airport.
5. The service open daily from now on

In a previous posting on this blog, the administration pondered the prospect of Thai reentry permits and whether they would ever again be available at the airport as opposed to the Royal Thai Immigration Headquarters at Chaeng Wattana. It would appear that from this point onwards, Thai reentry permits will be available to departing foreign nationals at the airport.

For those who are unfamiliar with the protocols and rules associated with Thai immigration, anyone present in the Kingdom of Thailand on a Thai visa must obtain a reentry permit prior to leaving the Kingdom of Thailand. Those who fail to obtain a Thai reentry permit prior to departing Thailand may lose their Thai visa status upon departure. For this reason, reentry permits should be obtained by anyone in Thai visa status who wishes to return to Thailand. A frequently asked question in this vein is: do I need a reentry permit if I am present in the Kingdom on a visa exemption? The short answer: no. Those who enter the country on a Thailand visa exemption cannot obtain a reentry permit as they are not technically in possession of a valid Thai visa. Those present in the Kingdom of Thailand on a Thai visa extension are required to obtain a Thai reentry permit prior to departure lest the foreign national fall out of status entirely upon departing Thailand. The same can be said for those who are present in Thailand with lawful permanent residence. A Permanent Resident in Thailand must receive authorization to leave the country whilst simultaneously maintaining lawful status in the Kingdom or else face the prospect of falling entirely out of status upon departure.

Those who are present in the Kingdom of Thailand on a multiple entry one year Thai visa should not need to obtain a Thai reentry permit when departing the Kingdom, but those with a multiple entry visa are generally required to depart the Kingdom at least every 90 days in order to maintain lawful status.

Fore related information please see: Thailand business visa or Thai Work Permit.

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17th April 2010

In previous posts, this author has discussed visa runs and border runs. Another common method of obtaining lawful status in the form of a Thai visa is by traveling to Thai Embassies and Consulates outside of the Kingdom of Thailand. This can be a difficult endeavor for some, but the difficulty can be increased as Embassies and Consulates change their internal rules frequently. This is a by-product of doctrines similar to that of Consular Absolutism also known as Consular NonReviewability. This doctrine states, in a nutshell, that Consular Officers are given wide latitude to use their own discretion when making factual determinations about visa issuance.

Recently, this author has learned that the Royal Thai Embassy Kuala Lumpur will no longer issue the 1 year multiple entry Thai business visa to those with a work permit that is valid for less than 7 months. In the past, it was routine to see the 1 year Thailand business visa issued to those with a valid work permit regardless of the duration of its validity. Now, it seems that only a 90 day business visa will be granted to those with a Thai work permit that is valid for less than 7 months.

In recent years, the Thailand work permit and the Thailand visa have been effectively “decoupled” in the sense that one is no longer necessarily dependent upon the other. For a long period of time one had to have a work permit in order to obtain a Thai visa extension. Once that extension was obtained one needed to then extend the work permit so that the two documents’ validity were in sync. This has changed as the Ministry of Labour is more apt to grant a 1 year work permit to first time applicants and then the applicant can easily obtain a visa extension. The side effect of this system is that Thai Embassies and Consulates are increasingly less willing to issue one year Thai visas since their personnel view the decision regarding issuance of such a long term travel document ought to be made by the Royal Thai Immigration Police in the Kingdom of Thailand.

When analyzed, this policy makes sense as the Royal Thai Immigration Police in Thailand are often better equipped to adjudicate visa extension requests. However, there are often very compelling reasons why an applicant would wish to obtain a 1 year multiple entry visa from outside of Thailand. One notable reason, such a travel document would not require the issuance of a Thai Reentry Permit as would be necessary if a one year visa extension were issued.

It should be noted that each Thai Consular and/or Diplomatic Post has a different set of rules with regard to visa issuance so what is the rule at one post may not be the same at another.

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5th December 2009

Work Permits can be a major issue for those engaging in non-recreational activity in Thailand. Thaivisa. com is reporting that some of those involved with the King’s Cup Regatta were worried that the Ministry of Labour and the Royal Thai Immigration Police may crackdown on foreigners participating in the Regatta. The reason for the possible crackdown was supposedly to be due to unsanctioned employment-like activity. Fortunately, as Thaivisa.com is reporting, rumors of a crackdown are unfounded as authorities have stated that no sailors will be detained for work permit violations connected with the event.

Quoting Thaivisa.com:

Rumors of an imminent crackdown on foreign sailors taking part in the King’s Cup Regatta over work permit violations are untrue, the head of Phuket Immigration has confirmed. A thread on the popular Thai Visa web forum yesterday started with the post:  ’Latest from Phuket Town… raiding King’s Cup regatta tomorrow for professional sailors without work permits….’ As Immigration Police would have to play a role in any such crackdown, the Gazette contacted Phuket Immigration Police Superintendent Col Chanatpol Yongbunjerd to see if the rumor was true; it wasn’t, and isn’t. ‘I guarantee that such arrests won’t happen,’ he said.”

Although it may seem trivial, some officials take work permit violations very seriously. As a result, some activities which foreigners consider to be “non-employment,” are used as a basis for fining or detaining individuals in the Kingdom for violations of Thai Labor law.

Immediately following the relatively recent Tsunami in Southern Thailand, many volunteers arrived to assist in relief efforts. Some of these volunteers were disturbed to be informed by Thai authorities that they were in violation of Thai labor regulations. To quote Thailandqa.com:

“‘More than 1,000 foreign volunteers from about 25 countries helping tsunami survivors rebuild shattered lives were outraged yesterday to hear they face legal action by the Labour Ministry unless they have a work permit. Sombat Boonngam-anong, director of the Chiang Rai-based Krajok Ngao Foundation, said confusion and anger reigned among the foreign volunteers at Khao Lak in Phangnga’s Takua Pa district when a Labour Ministry official told a local English-language newspaper that they were required to register with the ministry for a work permit otherwise legal action would be taken against them starting March 1.’ — Bangkok Post, 2nd March 2005, PENCHAN CHAROENSUTHIPAN”

Normally, in order for a foreign national to obtain a Thai work permit the applicant must also present a validly issued Thai visa. Many Thailand visa categories enable the bearer to apply for a work permit. However, the most optimal visa category to support a work permit is the business visa. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to obtain a Thai business visa from a Thailand Embassy or Consulate abroad and therefore many opt to stay in Thailand on tourist visas or exemption stamps. Neither of these documents, on their own, can be used as a basis for submitting a Thai work permit application. Therefore, those wishing to work in the Kingdom should seriously consider applying for a proper visa prior to arrival.

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20th October 2009

There are many Thai Embassies and Consulates throughout Southeast Asia. One of the major posts in the region is definitely the Royal Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Thailand and Malaysia share a border and are two of the larger members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This likely explains why both nations maintain relatively large diplomatic and consular posts in each of  these countries. Kuala Lumpur is also a major destination for those wishing to acquire a Thai visa at a Consular post abroad.

The reason for the attraction is likely based largely upon the fact that there are frequent flights from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and these flights are relatively cheap compared to airfares for other destinations in the region. Recently, the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang, Malaysia began restricting the issuance of Thai tourist visas to those who have been remaining in Thailand for long periods of time. As a result, many so called “visa runners” have been searching for more flexible consulates in the region. There seems to be no doubt that the Royal Thai Embassy in KL is maintaining a visa issuance policy similar to Penang. However, many visa runners opt to use different posts in an effort to obtain a new visa.

For those thinking of traveling long term in Southeast Asia, it may be wise to develop a strategy regarding one’s visa needs before leaving one’s home country. For example, obtaining a 1 year multiple entry visa before traveling to Thailand would create a great deal of flexibility for the traveler even if he or she does not stay in Thailand for a year and opts to travel throughout the region. This would be a benefit because a long term Thai visa such as this allows for 90 days upon each entry and permits infinite entries for as long as the visa is valid. Therefore, if one is backpacking throughout the region and Thailand is the main country to be toured, a long term visa would be a great deal more beneficial than simply using visa exemption stamps or single entry tourist visas because one cannot cross land borders and be admitted multiple times using either of these methods. Currently, one will only be granted 15 days of lawful presence at any land border port of entry to Thailand.

For the most part, Consulates and Embassies in Southeast Asia will only issue non-immigrant visas such as the Thai Business visa and the Thai O visa for a duration of 90 days.  Therefore, if one obtains a non-immigrant visa at one of these posts, then it may be necessary to acquire a visa extension through the Royal Thai Immigration Police Department in Thailand.

For more information please see: thailand visa

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27th June 2009

There have been some interesting developments regarding the Thai Tourist visa. Recently the Thai government authorities and Royal Thai Immigration announced that they would extend the free tourist visa program. This initiative was designed to spur tourism to Thailand which has been a sector of the economy that was hard-hit by the airport closures in late 2008, government instability at the beginning of 2009, the Asean summit cancellation, the  Songkran disturbances, and the worldwide economic distress. A recent statistic published in Thailand has stated that Tourism in Thailand has decreased by 50% year-on-year, for a country heavily dependent upon foreign tourist currency this finding was disconcerting. By providing free tourist visas the Thai government hopes recreational travel to Thailand will increase.

The free tourist visa program would seem to be just one pillar of Thailand’s long term Immigration program. It would seem that Thai Immigration Authorities want to ween foreigners off of the Thai visa exemption and onto the use of Thai visas. Many foreigners are under the mistaken impression that when they are stamped through the immigration counter at the airport in Thailand, they are provided with a 30 day visa. In reality, the stamp for a person entering without a visa is a 30 day visa exemption. This stamp allows a non-Thai national to remain in Thailand without a visa for the time period stipulated on the foreigner’s passport (currently 30 days at the airport and 15 days at land border immigration checkpoints).

At one time, foreigners were able to remain in Thailand for a nearly indefinite period so long as they made a “visa run” every 30 days to renew their exemption stamp. The authorities issuing Thai visas first put a stop to this practice approximately 3 years ago when they mandated that a person was only entitled to visa exemptions for 90 out of every 180 days. Approximately 6 months ago, the Immigration authorities again changed the regulations. Currently, 15 day visa exemptions will be granted to foreigners at the land border and 30 days will be granted at the airport.  Further, those using visa exemption stamps at a land border will only be able to get 4 consecutive 15 day stamps.

This change of policy has created the necessity for longer term visas. Currently the Thai government is providing free Tourist visas to those who wish to travel to Thailand. The visa has a validity of 60 days, but one can travel to the Thai Immigration office in Thailand and, for an extra fee, one can extend the visa for an extra 30 days intra-country.  Another option is the “double entry” Thai tourist visa. this has a double validity for 60 days (with extendability) and if used properly can confer lawful status to a foreigner in Thailand for 6 months.

Apparently, the free tourist visa scheme is not being well received by some of Thailand’s honorary consulates around the globe, because these posts make a substantial portion of their revenue from Tourist visas. According to government officials in Thailand, these posts will receive reimbursement for the free visas they issue. The free visa promotion does not affect the price of the Thailand Business visa, Thailand O Visa, or the Thailand Retirement Visa.

For information on a related topic please see: US Tourist Visa

(This post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created between reader and author.)

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